By Richard Melendez, Digital Editor
If you’re not feeling up to the hustle and bustle of Waikīkī, but accommodations on the North Shore or out on the Westside feel a bit *too* far away from everything, might I suggest… Waikīkī? Or rather, a stretch of beach known as the Gold Coast. It’s still technically Waikīkī, but it’s removed enough from the action to feel almost like a different island.
My significant other and I stumbled upon this area quite by accident. A couple of years ago, a pregnant seal chose the sands of the Gold Coast to give birth and nurse her pup until it was ready to move out on its own. The public was enthralled by these new tenants and swarmed the beach, while State officials cordoned off the area and made sure people kept a safe distance away. During their stay we made several trips down to catch a peek, and took notice of the neighborhood hiding right under our noses.
The area known as the Gold Coast starts on the 2800 block of Kalākaua Avenue, just a bit past the aquarium, right at the foot of Diamond Head Crater. Your drive there will be shady and tree-lined, which feels a world away from the towers, concrete and blazing sun of the main drag. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial on your right.
The natatorium is a historic treasure that once played host to swim events with celebrated athletes like Buster Crabbe, Johnny Weissmuller and Hawai‘i’s very own Duke Kahanamoku. The natatorium is no longer open to the public, but this deteriorating structure still manages to maintain an air of majesty, and remains a nostalgic throwback to simpler times.
Adjacent Kaimana Beach is a favorite spot for surfers, paddlers and sunbathers, as well as families who regularly picnic there. Popular among residents, you’ll find a much more mellow and relaxed vibe here than the more famous stretch of beach up the road. It was here that the seal pup and his mom hung out for several weeks. (By the way, this isnʻt a common occurrence in Waikīkī, so donʻt get your hopes up on seeing baby seals here).
For the next half mile, you’ll find hotels like the Lotus Honolulu at Diamond Head and New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel, and residential towers like the Colony Surf and Sans Souci. Both the Elks Lodge and Outrigger Canoe Club sit along this stretch, too. And just beyond lies a purely residential neighborhood of quaint one and two-story homes.
There are a small handful of restaurants in the area, too, including Michel’s at the Colony Surf, a longtime staple of the neighborhood. The historic Hau Tree Lanai sits right on the edge of Kaimana Beach and offers diners an ocean view in an open-air setting under its namesake trees. Their bar is a great spot to catch a drink while the sun sets, or to unwind after a day in the sun.
We can’t overlook Kapiolani Park, which, In my opinion, is the real centerpiece here. This is the quiet end of the park, far from the bandstand and tennis courts. With Diamond Head looming above, this half of the park beckons you to stroll through its green expanse, jog along its paths, or find a shady spot to just lie under and contemplate why you never knew that Waikīkī could be so calm and quiet.
With that said, therʻs not much more to do in this area. Which might just be what youʻre looking for…? Waikīkī-proper isnʻt very far away, if you feel the itch to immerse yourself in crowded sidewalks and traffic. Local-favorite beaches for surfing and bodyboarding are just a little further down the road, if youʻre craving some more adventurous water adventures. Otherwise, the Gold Coast has all you need if you just want a peaceful stay without all the glitz and hubub. On a whim, we decided to spend a weekend staycation here, inspired in part by our regular visits with the seal family. The peacefulness and relative solitude were exactly what we were looking for. Weʻll be back, for sure.
The Gold Coast is truly a world apart from Waikīkī. At only about a mile from its core, it’s just a scenic stroll away from most of the more popular hotels. During your next visit, you should step outside the norm and see what the other side of Waikīkī has to offer. Better yet, take a chance and book a room here!
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